Would You Like Fries With That? Individualized Product Suggestions In The World Of Machine Learning

Thanks to multibillion-dollar marketing campaigns and a culture that thrives on convenience, the fast food industry has become a staple in many lives across the world.  Although relatively new in society, they’re not only normalized, but the meals have become standardized. Sandwiches go with fries and a cool, refreshing soft drink.  If you try ordering just a sandwich, the cashier will prompt you to add fries. If you order a sandwich and fries, you may be asked if you’d like to make it a combo and add a drink, and I’d bet that more often than not, that simple suggestion, thanks to decades-long marketing and presentation, sways the customer and they leave with an entire meal.  Since we tend to be of the mind that these items go together, these suggestions don’t merit much surprise when received. There’s nothing shocking or startling about being asked to add a drink to your meal, because you know the cashier is asking everyone the same thing.  But today, in 2018, marketing suggestions in digital spaces are much more individualized, sometimes reflecting items just brought up in a search engine or viewed while visiting a store’s website. So how did we go from needing an entire social construct of appropriate pairings to make suggestions to a person just having to do what interests them online? Easy. Machine Learning.

Thanks to machine learning algorithms, your online activity can decide what kind of advertising you receive. This is huge for marketers, who are no longer wasting time and money advertising their hunting apparel to members of PETA. It has positive implications for the consumers as well, not only because targeted advertising can help a person find something they’ve been looking for or things they might like to purchase, but because machine learning fueled suggestions are also implemented on media websites, helping people expand their music, movie, and literary repertoires.

Whether the suggestions enabled by machine learning have helped you in any way (or if you’ve even noticed them at all) it’s amazing that, thanks to technology, we each have our own personal shopper and assistant whenever we’re online.  Instead of slogging through forums and content by ourselves, hunting for articles that interest us, clothes that fit our style, books to read, or songs to listen to, machine learning enabled suggestions can find those things for us, freeing up our time to work on other things. And that time saver, in our convenience-driven world, is priceless.

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